I constantly hear that only Donald Trump supporters can understand the Trump phenomenon, as if it were inaccessible to nonbelievers, like the secret knowledge of ancient Gnostics. But I don’t believe it’s a matter of comprehension.
Trump supporters are so tired of the ruling class and are so adamant about a handful of issues that they seem willing to overlook even monumental flaws in their candidate, so long as he will carry the torch against Washington — at least on those major issues. They aren’t just willing to ignore flaws; they don’t care about them, because things are so bad that only a rogue-like character will have the guts and wherewithal to shake things up.
I believe that these Trump supporters present a false choice. I do understand and share their frustration, but I reject the notion that only a virtual misfit can lead us out of this mess. I disagree that we have to burn the house down to rebuild it. Human nature and human history tell us that mob rule is a reckless path to correct governmental abuses.
Please don’t misunderstand Ted Cruz supporters, either. We are hardly complacent about what has transpired over the past 30 years — and especially the past eight. We are outraged, as well, and don’t believe we are going to work ourselves out of this hellhole with mere baby steps. But we don’t want to give in to the seductive temptation to lose our heads and betray the Founding Fathers’ vision in the process. We will not recapture America’s greatness through powerful determination alone. We must discipline ourselves to work within the constitutional framework, or we will forfeit the system that has made us unique in history.
Some may dispute that Trump supporters care only about certain core issues and are willing to employ extraordinary measures to address them. Well, a new Quinnipiac poll reveals that 53 percent of Trump supporters agree with this statement: “What we need is a leader who is willing to say or do anything to solve America’s problems.” This is consistent with what I hear from far too many Trump supporters.
Frankly, I would hate to be so pessimistic about our ability to overcome our problems that I’d be willing to compromise the rule of law and constitutional order to do so. In the end, Trump supporters may not go that far, but you wouldn’t know it from their rhetoric.
To illustrate their boundless willingness to forgive Trump, let’s look at Trump’s written statement after his defeat in Wisconsin. He was ungracious. He didn’t congratulate Cruz. And he showed no humility, though he was ahead in polls in that state not long ago.
He complained that “Lyin’ Ted Cruz” had the support of Gov. Scott Walker, many conservative radio talk show hosts and the entire party apparatus. He directly accused Cruz of “coordinating with his own Super PACs (which is illegal), who totally control him.” He said Cruz is attempting to steal the nomination from him.
These were not off-the-cuff comments but weighed and considered and then put into writing for publication. You see, it’s not just a matter of lacking discipline and not reining himself in on the fly. This is who Trump is. It’s what he does, even after thinking about it.
Trump supporters tend to say that this is what makes Trump so great. He’s not PC, and he won’t be shamed into behaving as everyone else does. But since when does opposing political correctness mean we must be rude, petulant and ungracious? Political correctness is cultural and media pressure to suppress our speech and force us to conform to liberal norms. We must not trivialize our battle against political correctness by insisting that what we are fighting for is the right to be rude and boorish. It has never been about that.
Several Trump supporters said they saw nothing wrong with the statement. If that is true, then a chasm separates us. Even Mike Huckabee, who has been sympathetic to Trump, said he should have “shown a little class” and not released that statement, which “was ill-advised.”
Though entrenched Trump supporters may believe such behavior is acceptable in these exceptional times — even admirable — few outside their circle will agree, which is why Trump has difficulty exceeding 40 percent approval anywhere.
Trump’s supporters are inordinately forgiving not just on his behavior and temperament but also on his limited knowledge and vacillation on policy outside of his few signature issues.
I can’t fathom being unconcerned about radical daily flip-flops on issues, such as the abortion flap of last week. The most troubling thing about it is not his initial remark about punishing women who obtain an illegal abortion. It’s that he kept switching back and forth after he was criticized, revealing he just hasn’t given it much thought.
You don’t have to be a policy wonk to be a good president, but I would hope that you would have at least given serious consideration to important issues beyond the few that brought you to prominence. You must have at least rudimentary knowledge on issues before you can make proper decisions, even with the best advisers available.
I get that only a few issues matter to some Trump supporters for now and they’re willing to risk rolling the dice on the others. I, too, feel strongly about protecting our border and restoring America’s uniqueness. But I refuse to believe we have to make a choice between a personally volatile candidate who cares only about those issues and a highly qualified, well-informed candidate who cares about those matters and many others and whom we can also expect to behave in a manner befitting the highest office of the land.